Tidbits of history regarding Father Felix Ullrich, O.S.B.,
and OUR LADY QUEEN OF PEACE church
(with an exhortation for the founding of Father Felix Ullrich School)
compiled and edited by Eddie Herrmann
P.O. Box 212 — San Antonio, FL 33576-0212
copyright © 1988, corrected dates in lines 1 and 2, 8/2/07
May be reproduced in whole or part with appropriate source credit
Wilhelm Ullrich had come to America in 1891 from the area of
Germany known as Mittel Deutschland. He was born, June 25, 1875, in the
town of Freudenberg am Main in the province of Baden. His father, Josef
Michael, was a Schmiedemeister and had taught his sons to be
blacksmiths; but Wilhelm had thoughts of being a priest, feeling he
could be more help to people in that vocation. Perhaps his sister
Elise, who had previously emigrated to the United States, wrote to him
of the need for priests here.
He came, at the age of sixteen, and joined her in Philadelphia
where he worked for a while as kitchen helper and waiter. Then, guided
on his path to the priesthood by Fr. Bernhard Dornhege, his pastor, he
went to Maryhelp Abbey (in the town of Garabaldi, North Carolina) for
his seminary studies.
It was there that the Benedictines conducted Belmont College.
His profession of vows was made on December 25, 1903 and, as a son of
Saint Benedict, he became Felix. Bishop Kenny ordained him on December
18, 1906 at Saint Leo Abbey. His first Solemn Mass was offered on
Christmas Day, at the altar of the Church of Saint Elizabeth in
Philadelphia. This was the church where his beloved Father Bernhard
Dornhege was pastor.
Because one of his first missions after becoming a priest for
Saint Leo Abbey was to serve the people of the Isle of Pines (Cuba), I
will tell a little bit of the history of the Ullrich family there.
Father Felix was enthusiastic about the opportunities for a
blacksmith there and enticed his brother Ludwig to come and open a
shop. Uncle Louie liked the tropical life so well that he married Meta
Gabriel, his island sweetheart, and raised a family there.
According to Elena Ullrich Cleveland, their daughter, the
youngsters completed the schooling that was available on the island and
then came, one by one, to the "States" for further education. They came
to the Atlanta area where the Gabriel family had relatives. Gertrude,
Elena, Alma, Luis, and Theresa liked life in the United States and
settled down to begin their own families. The second child (the oldest
son), Arthur, remained in the town of Nueva Gerona, where his shop was
located just a few minutes drive from his father's farm.
After the Castro revolution they remained as long as they
thought prudent. Finally, life under Communist rule became unbearable
so they applied for permission to come to America. In October of 1966,
after a long government imposed delay, they left their homes and the
shop for the promise held out by the United States. By this time they
were penniless but, at least, and at last, they were able to join
Arthur's siblings in the Atlanta area.
Father Felix had also convinced his brother Max, my
grandfather, to leave Freudenberg and come to the Isle of Pines to work
with Ludwig. But when Abbot Charles (Mohr, O.S.B.) called Father Felix
back to Saint Leo Abbey in 1912, Max came instead to San Antonio where,
he was assured, a good blacksmith was also needed. That change in plans
is what has placed me here where I have lived all of my life, for Rose,
one of the daughters of Max and Babette (Barbara), grew up in San
Antonio and married Joe Herrmann. I am the eldest child of nine; five
boys and four girls.
As the founding priest for the fledgling community of
Catholics in New Port Richey in 1913, Father Felix said the first Holy
Mass there on the dining room table of William and Mary Casey. He had a
special devotion to Our Lady and it was very fitting that the name
chosen for the new mission was, — OUR LADY, QUEEN OF PEACE.
For a few years, while planning and building the church which
was completed in 1919, he made frequent trips from Saint Leo Abbey to
minister to his flock in New Port Richey. Abbot Charles Mohr, O.S.B.,
S.T.D. (Doctor of Sacred Theology), his Benedictine superior, dedicated
the church March 9, 1919 and Father Felix became its first resident
"rector" in 1922.
Although the mission priests were commonly referred to as
pastors, the only resident "pastor" at that time (in the three county
area served by the Order of Saint Benedict) was in San Antonio at Saint
Anthony of Padua Church. The other churches were not canonical parishes
until much later.
Father Felix often stayed with friends in New Port Richey and
for a time lived in the sacristy of the church before the rectory was
built in 1922.
Father Anton Ullrich, Stadtpfarrer (pastor) at Tauberbischofsheim,
Germany when Father Felix died in 1953, had answered his call to the
priesthood because of the influence of Father Felix. He prepared a
tribute from the "Familie Ullrich" in the home town of Freudenberg.
The information that follows comes from sources which are
identified. Since this is a continuing project, I solicit input from
persons with knowledge of other facts or anecdotes. If you have
information that counters what I have, I would be interested in
receiving that as well. The spelling, grammar and capitalization are
true to the original material being quoted. You will find frequent use
of the letter "P" to indicate "Father". (P=Pater=Father)
from THE ST. LEO CADET, Volume I, Number 2, June 1919
the zealous efforts of Rev. Father Felix, O.S.B., a small Church has
been erected at [New] Port Richey, Fla. The Church was solemnly blessed
by the Rt. Rev. Abbot Charles, O.S.B., on Sunday March 9. A large
gathering of Catholics witnessed the ceremonies. There are now five
Catholic edifices in Pasco County, and two of these are attended to by
Father Felix. We congratulate him and pray that God may continue to
bless his future good works for many years.
In a later paragraph under the same heading:
series of Lenten sermons were preached in St. Anthony's Church, San
Antonio, Fla., by Rev. Fr. Francis, O.S.B., Rev. Fr. Augustine, O.S.B.,
Very Rev. Fr. John, O.S.B., Rev. Fathers Felix, and Matthew,
from THE ST. LEO CADET, Volume II, Number 2, June 1920
DIOCESAN NOTES — Benedictine Missions
favor of the Apostolic See, the Benedictine Fathers have been entrusted
with the spiritual charge of the Catholics residing in the three
counties of Hernando, Pasco and Citrus.1
During the thirty-three years of their missionary labors they have
built ten mission churches. We are printing pictures of several of them
together with the pictures of the Fathers who have been instrumental in
the erection of these Churches. The Fathers who attend the mission
churches reside in the Abbey. San Antonio alone has a resident
Later under the same heading was this:
New Port Richey, Pasco County
Catholic settlers and tourists were long anxious for a common place of
worship. With the aid of the Catholic Church Extension Society and
local contributions a creditable building was erected. It was dedicated
by Abbot Charles [Mohr, O.S.B.] on March 9, 1919. The local paper terms
it ‘our’ church. It is on the Gulf coast 30 miles from the
Monastery of Saint Leo.2
Under “PERSONALS” in the same publication we find:
pleasure we note that Rev. Felix Ullrich, O.S.B., who spent the past
month in the St. Vincent Hospital, Jacksonville, undergoing an
operation for appendicitis, has again returned.
from ST. LEO'S, Volume IX, Number 1, June-Jan'y 1921-‘22
1921-‘22 SCHOOL NOTES JUNE-JAN.
August 23 (a
related note about Max Ullrich) — Mr. Ullrich is converting the
students' 36 double steel Lockers into 72 single ones.
October 31 — P Felix becomes N-P Richey resid't pastor. Cf page 23.
from ST. LEO'S, Volume IX, Number 1, June-Jan'y 1921-‘22 3
Rev. and dear Father:
the permission of my Superior and the Rt. Rev. Michael J. Curley
[Bishop of Saint Augustine], Archbishop-Elect of Baltimore, I venture
to appeal to you for help. Appointed as pastor of New Port Richey,
Pasco Co., Fla., having just finished the church, I intended to build a
parochial school, aiming to have it ready for the children by New Year.
HURRICANE which swept this western part of Florida on October the 24
& 25 almost completely wrecked the church, so that I am forced to
replace it. The present wrecked church, when repaired, will be the
people — about 75 souls — made heroic sacrifices for this
church; now, however, with their groves damaged, the fruit nearly all
destroyed, their homes suffering from the effects of the storm, and a
debt of $650.00 on the church: they would rejoice as much as I and be
grateful for any help you may extend me.
in the building before the Blessed Sacrament, when the tower, unable to
resist the force of the winds longer, came crashing down, when the
building left its foundations, and when the crucifix, the candles and
candlesticks, the statues of the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, the Sacred
Heart, and St. Anthony were in one moment hurled to the floor, I
commended my soul to God. But I am living and with your help I will try
Hoping that you will not forsake me in this need, and wishing you good health, I am
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Rev. Felix Ullrich, O.S.B.
Editor's note: This hurricane hit with such force that the
building was turned ninety degrees. Family history has it that when
parishioners gathered to return the building to its previous
orientation Father Felix said, “If God wants Our Lady's church to
face the river we shall let it face the river.”
from ST. LEO'S, Volume IX, Number 1, June-Jan'y 1921-‘22
Felix, in EXTENSION MAGAZINE, May 1922: ‘My church at New Port
Richey was hurricaned last 25 Oct. By appealing to some of the clergy I
was enabled to make repairs to safely hold services. Being here
permanently I wish to make something of this place; have started a
house; live in the sacristy; am cook and housekeeper, thus able to
defray house expenses.
But! Paint, few furniture pieces, light fixtures, bathroom outfit for
it, tank, gasoline engine, and a coat of paint for church will cost
hard task before me, viz., the building of a new church so as to turn
the present church into the future school’ [and Sisters
(The article is accompanied by a photo of the relatively
undamaged church with the note, “Tower blown down; Church moved
from its base.”)
from ST. LEO'S, Volume IX, Number 2, Jan'y-June 1921-‘22
1921-‘22 SCHOOL NOTES JAN.-JUNE
February 26 — P Felix visited. Had two big tables full of college visitors.”
March 1 — Fr. Abbot left for the New Port Richey ‘Chasco Fiesta’.”
22 — P Bernard substitutes P Felix, who goes to Germany, at New
Port Richey, leaves Saturdays 7 pm & returns Sundays 11 pm.
from ST. LEO'S, Volume X, Number 1, June-Jan'y 1922-‘23
1922-‘23 SCHOOL NOTES
24, 1922 — P Felix reached N-P Richey, Fla., from his trip to
Germany. P Bernard had substituted him 14 Sun- & Holidays.
August 13 — P Jerome visits the N-P Richey pastor for a week.
August 21 — PP Felix and Jerome enter on their annual Retreat.
November 25 — ...Thanksgiving Day ... P Bernard visited N-P Richey ...
January 24, 1923 — Bp (Bishop?) to N-P Richey.
July 8, 1923 — P. Kiissel, laborer, left for NY a/c higher wages.
Editor's note: P. Kiissel may be Peter Kissel
(Vol. X, No. 1 also had the following reprint of a letter of
solicitation that was accompanied by a photo of the church and followed
by a printer's note: “25,000 of these Appeals were issued 2 Nov.
‘22 on 2-ply Urano cards 3½ x 5½, which stacked up,
measured 25 feet.”
Church of Our Lady QUEEN OF PEACE New Port Richey, Pasco County, Florida
My dear friend,
wish to have the Kingdom of God extended on earth and this is why I
appeal to you. In honor of the Mother of God I am trying to build this
mission Church, Our Lady Queen of Peace, an humble brick structure. The
existence of this young parish depends on the ‘Only Oasis’
of true wisdom and happiness, the Catholic School, and with this brick
church completed I shall be able to convert the present church into a
you assist me in keeping the Blessed Sacrament in this part of the
State where our non-Catholic brethren are ever on the watch to increase
membership, or, must I leave the field to them just for the want of a
little help? One dollar will buy fifty bricks and the Lord will surely
return it to you a thousand fold. May God reward your charity! To
remember daily your spiritual and temporal needs and to ask for you
God's Mercy at the hour of death, shall be my life-long prayer for you.
Wishing you God's blessing, I am,
Sincerely yours in Christ, (Rev.) Felix Ullrich, O.S.B.
Kindly pass this on to your Catholic neighbor or friend. I thank you!
Included in the “MINUTES, Conference of the Clergy of the Diocese of St. Augustine”
---[included] The Rt. Reverend Charles H. Mohr, O.S.B., S.T.D.; The
Reverend Felix Ullrich, O.S.B., Rector Our Lady [Queen] of Peace, New
The Very Reverend Francis Sadlier, O.S.B., St. Leo Abbey; The Reverend John Schlicht, O.S.B., St. Anthony's, San Antonio
also from ST. LEO'S, Volume XI, Number 1
(A reprint of a letter dated 4-5-‘24. A printer's note
showed that 2,000 were addressed “Dear Friend:” while
18,000 were sent to “Rev. and dear Father:”)
Church of Our Lady, Queen of Peace
Dear Friend:” [or alternately,] “Rev. and dear Father:
and appeals of this kind, I realize, are frequent in your mail box,
but, dear Friend, the pleadings and appeals of the ‘Little
Ones’ to save them from the evil influence of our present Public
School are still harder to bear.
this section of our country there is a great feeling against the
Catholic religion. Even the Klu [sic]-klux-klan has visited this town
and denounced everything Catholic, from the Italian right down through
the various nations.
For this reason I ask you to help a little, no matter how small, to buy a board or two for a parochial School.
God bless you exceedingly for whatever support you may render me.
Sincerely, for the kingdom of Christ in the hearts of the young,
Your humble servant,
(Rev.) Felix Ullrich, O.S.B.
From his nephew, Franz Anton Ullrich of Wauchula, FL, April 1988:
“I can't say for sure if it was ever completed, but
Father Felix had plans for a Lourdes Grotto that was to be built in a
‘sinkhole’ about half-way between the church and the river.
It was a beautiful spot for such a shrine and was one of his dreams.
This would have been sometime in the mid 1920s. I know it was after the
big hurricane of 1921.”
Franz also told of “rows and rows” of Amaryllis (lilies) that Father Felix had in a garden near the church. Franz
was there in the early 1920s to give Father a hand with his gardening
and one of the chores was to hoe the beautiful rose garden and the
Amaryllis rows. He said that Father Felix was successful in crossing
and hybridizing the flowers to produce new varieties.
FOLLOW-UP: On a visit to the sinkhole I found that it was virtually
filled with limbs, leaves, and other compostable materials that the
City of New Port Richey had placed there to keep it from being a
hazard. I could find no one that knew of a shrine having been built
there. There is a shrine, dedicated to the memory of Father Felix and
located on the grounds of the old church, that was built by Father
Aloysius Dressman, O.S.B., during his tenure as pastor.
My mother, Rose Ullrich Herrmann, said it was funded by
donations that were collected mainly by "Tante Lieschen" (Aunt
Elizabeth). She was Mrs. Peter Kissel, nee Czaska. I grew up calling
the couple Onkel Peter and Tante Lieschen, even though they were not
actually related to the family.
They made frequent trips, from their Massachusetts Avenue
home, to San Antonio and Saint Leo to visit Father Felix and all of the
Ullrichs. For a while, Tante Lieschen served as Father's housekeeper
when he was pastor at Saint Anthony parish.
"Uncle Pete" had known the Ullrichs in Germany where he worked
in the mines. When the miner's chisels needed to be sharpened he would
bring them to the Ullrich shop in Freudenberg where Max worked in the
from the SOUVENIR OF THE SILVER JUBILEES booklet, 1927
(Regarding a trip to the missions served by Saint Leo Abbey.)
Abbot Charles Mohr of Saint Leo was accompanied on this
excursion by Abbot Bernard Menges of Saint Bernard, Alabama, and the
Abbot Primate, Rt. Rev. Fidelis von Stotzingen, O.S.B., S.T.D., Abbot
of Saint Anselm Abbey (Rome).
Later in the same booklet:
17th, 1927, -At New Port Richey we partake of a sumptuous meal prepared
by Father Felix Ullrich, O.S.B. Besides being a zealous pastor, Father
is also a splendid cook.
from the book, SAINT LEO GOLDEN JUBILEE, 1890-1940
PASCO COUNTY MISSIONS:
...Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, New Port Richey
Catholic settlers and tourists of this beautiful Gulf Coast town which
is thirty-four miles from Saint Leo, were long anxious to build a
church. With the aid of the Catholic Church Extension Society and local
contributions their hope was realized, and a satisfactory house of
worship was erected just after the end of the Great War. The dedication
took place on March 9, 1919, with the late Abbot Charles officiating.
Felix Ullrich, O.S.B., served this parish faithfully for a number of
years as first resident pastor. It was he who practically rebuilt the
church when it was severely damaged by a hurricane. He also erected the
excellent parish hall. Father Paul Keegan, O.S.B., has been pastor
since 1932 and the parish continues to make progress.”
Editor's note: Father Felix was appointed “professor of
Spanish” at Saint Leo College Preparatory School in 1932. In May
of 1934 he was made pastor of Saint Anthony Church in San Antonio where
he served thru April of 1947. He died at Saint Leo Abbey on January 29,
+May he Rest In Peace!
It was a remarkable coincidence that one of those who cared for him in
his last days was Frater Michael Leap. Later, as Father Michael Leap,
O.S.B., he was the last Benedictine pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace
when the parish began to be staffed by clergy of the Diocese of Saint
The following paragraphs are quoted from my 1984 paper,
PRIESTS SERVING THE PEOPLE OF SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA PARISH
Fr. Felix Ullrich, OSB, May 1934 [thru April 1947]
Remembered as having said that if he hadn't been called to the
priesthood he most certainly would have been a horticulturalist, Fr.
Felix began his pastorate in May of 1934.
Before coming to St. Anthony parish, he had been successful in
New Port Richey. He had been the founding pastor there in 1913 and used
profits from his greenhouse to help build OUR LADY QUEEN OF PEACE
church. Many of the palm trees around New Port Richey are said to have
been raised by Fr. Felix from seed. His name appears on the list of
those signing the “petition for incorporation” of that
municipality. He would, of course, build a greenhouse in San Antonio
when he came here. This allowed him to raise a large percentage of the
flowers and plants needed at St. Anthony Church. The greenhouse is now
the classroom which is located behind the church. He is also remembered
as being responsible for several other major improvements. Some of them
are mentioned in the Saint Leo Golden JUBILEE, p. 78, where it states,
“Under his capable administration an attractive grotto, shrine of
Saint Anthony, and concrete walls [i.e., stone walls (eh)] have been
erected, as well as a magnificent liturgical altar in the church. A
fine pipe organ was recently installed.”
He replaced the amber "milk-glass" windows with stained glass.
The “magnificent” altar was later removed and replaced with
the one still in use today. Old-timers, most notably the Legeres, tell
of his introducing several species from the Isle of Pines. Among them
were the pink flesh guava and the "lady palm."
Editor's note: You can see from the numerous references in his
correspondence that Father Felix had a dream that could still come
true; the establishment of a parochial school. With the population
explosion in western Pasco County, the Catholic religion is no longer
the kind of minority it once was. Many Catholic parents are willing to,
and do, make the sacrifices necessary to send their children to distant
Catholic schools. They know, as Father Felix did, of the advantages for
children receiving such an education.
With the many Catholic parishes that are spinoffs of OUR LADY
QUEEN OF PEACE parish, it seems that an attainable goal would be the
establishment of an inter-parochial school — FATHER FELIX ULLRICH
SCHOOL. Such a school could provide quality education for mind and soul
and be the realization of a dream. Let's pray for, and work towards,
The Knights of Columbus of western Pasco County would the
logical group to spearhead this drive. Knights throughout the country
have a reputation for being involved in projects like this and members
of Father Felix Council #5869, which was instituted in 1965, certainly
would have a vested interest in this endeavor.
In closing, it would be appropriate to give credit to several
persons who made a paper like this possible. My initial interest in
local history had come from looking at the collection of Saint Leo
College yearbooks that my father had saved. Then, around 1950, Father
Edgar Lang, O.S.B., returned from his teaching position at Catholic
University of America to become Prior at the abbey and to teach at the
Saint Leo College Prep School (where I was a student). He remembered
having taught my father and took a liking to me. My interest was piqued
when he gave me his collection of ST.LEO'S and ST. LEO CADETs. He said
that he thought it would be better to give the books to someone with an
interest in them than to add them to the abbey collection where they
would be duplicates. What a stroke of good fortune for me!
These books from Father Edgar have provided a mountain of
information on many topics that are of interest to our community at
large as they contain data on a myriad of subjects. In fact, you will
notice that much of the information contained in this paper came from
the books Father Edgar gave me. The Saint Leo Abbey collection that
Father Edgar spoke of, stems from the Benedictine tradition of abbey
archives being a repository of historical data. For instance, the first
available records of Saint Anthony parish, the pioneer parish of the
Order of Saint Benedict in Florida, were placed there. They were
written by Mr. Josef Kast, one time Saint Anthony sacristan, in his
compilation called CHRONICK, and by Father Gerard Pilz, O.S.B., the
first Benedictine priest to serve San Antonio Colony. Then, Father
Benedict Roth, O.S.B., started the reportedly immense abbey scrapbook
collection. The Kast, Pilz, and Roth works were later used by the
editors of the publications for both the silver and golden jubilees at
Saint Leo Abbey. You can see that the archives at Saint Leo Abbey could
be a Godsend for those researching our local history. Let us give
thanks for those who have gone before us who had the foresight to
document these important historic materials.
+May their souls Rest In Peace!
1. The original decretum, dated June 1, 1887 at Rome, Italy,
entrusted all of Hernando County to the spiritual care of 'the Fathers
of the Order of Saint Benedict.' Since Pasco and Citrus counties were
formed from Hernando on June 2, 1887, the priests of Saint Leo Abbey
became the spiritual fathers of the three counties.
2. The article was accompanied by a photo of Father Felix
Ullrich, O.S.B., and by a photo of the Washington Street church
building. The same article was published in the SOUVENIR OF THE SILVER
JUBILEES, published November 24, 1927 to memorialize the raising of
Saint Leo Priory to the status of abbey and to honor Abbot Charles
Mohr, O.S.B., S.T.D., who was the first Abbot.
3. This undated letter of solicitation was reprinted in ST. LEO'S, Volume IX, Number 1, June-Jan'y 1921-'22.